Dharamshala: - France 24 reporter Cyril Payen has been harassed and threatened by Chinese diplomatic personnels for his documentary 'Seven Days in Tibet', says Reporters Without Borders (RSF). His report, entitled "Seven days in Tibet," was broadcast by France 24 on 30 May, 2013 and was followed by a live debate.
China is highly restrictive and still a totalitarian state when it comes to freedom of press, particularly when it comes to reporting on the current real situation in Tibet.
The Paris based world press freedom watchdog says "it is outraged by the way Chinese diplomatic personnel have harassed and threatened French journalist Cyril Payen, a reporter for the French TV news station France 24, since the station broadcast his documentary "Seven days in Tibet" on 30 May. The TV Channel is an international news and current affairs television channel based in Paris."
"A few days after it was broadcast, Chinese embassy personnel went to the TV channel's headquarters in Paris to demand the documentary's withdrawal from its website. The Chinese embassy in Bangkok then threatened him by telephone after he arrived in Thailand," it stressed.
"Such unacceptable behaviour might be expected from the mafia but not from senior diplomats," Reporters Without Borders said.
"It is acceptable for an embassy to express its disagreement with a report. But it is completely unacceptable for diplomats stationed in France and Thailand to try to intimidate a news outlet into modifying editorial content, to harangue a journalist and to summon him with the intention of interrogating him.
"Such methods are undoubtedly normal in China, and that is regrettable, but they have no place in a free country. The telephone threats that these diplomats made against a French journalist expose them to the possibility of judicial proceedings.
"We urge the French authorities to summon the representatives of the Chinese embassy in Paris in order to protest against this unacceptable harassment. The French authorities must condemn the Chinese government's use of such aggressive methods with a French journalist and their violation of his freedom of information."
"Payen described to Reporters Without Borders the events that followed the broadcasting of his report. Taking advantage of a loosening in controls on people entering Tibet, Payen, entered the territory clandestinely in early May in order to do a report on China's repression of its Tibetan minority. His report, entitled "Seven days in Tibet," was broadcast by France 24 on 30 May and was followed by a live debate," RSF criticised China's 'interference and attempted censorship.'
As Payen was leaving Paris for Bangkok on 3 June, the Chinese embassy in Paris contacted France 24 and asked to meet with him. As he had by then already left, two embassy officials went to France 24 to talk to its CEO, Marc Saikali. For two hours, they accused the station of broadcasting a mendacious report that was "riddled with errors" and demanded its removal from the website. The station refused.
'On his arrival in Bangkok on 4 June, Payen received a call on his mobile phone from the Chinese embassy in Thailand, although neither he nor France 24 had given his number to any Chinese diplomats. Asked to go to the embassy as soon as possible, Payen said he was willing to meet at a Bangkok hotel, but the Chinese diplomats ruled out a meeting anywhere but the embassy,' RSF has strongly condemned the Chinese diplomats' 'harassmen't and 'open threats' on the French journalist.
"The embassy then stepped up its harassment of Payen, who received several anonymous calls and many texts. A message left yesterday by a female member of the embassy's staff was openly threatening," RSF said in the statement.
She gave him an ultimatum to attend a meeting at the embassy by today at the latest to explain why he had "cheated" in order to obtain a Chinese visa. She urged him to stop postponing the meeting and to comply with the embassy request, or else "take the responsibility" of his refusal.
"Foreign journalists are forbidden to visit Tibet and the Chinese police continue to prevent them from covering demonstrations by Tibetans in nearby provinces. The police arrested a CNN crew at a toll station in Sichuan province in January 2012 and prevented them from travelling on to the neighbouring Tibet Autonomous Region," RSF said while it had considered Tibet – as a "sensitive subject."
"The Chinese authorities are aware that these bans violate their own laws and often use bad weather or the state of the roads as pretexts for denying access to Tibet.
The police readily harass foreign journalists suspected of intending to defy their instructions. Some journalists have complained of being followed. The police have escorted others to the nearest airport, interrogated them for hours, forced them to delete their photos and video footage, and confiscated their equipment.
The police not only ask to see press cards and passports but also temporary foreign residence permits, which journalists now have to carry with them. These violations of freedom of information foster a climate of permanent surveillance that is stressful for journalists and often takes a psychological toll.
In February 2012, China-based foreign journalists asked the authorities to allow them to freely visit the provinces that are closed to them, to have freedom of movement throughout the country and to be able to interview anyone who is willing. Submitted by the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China (FCCC), which is not recognized by the government, the request was not granted."
The world media watchdog stated that there is "growing problems for foreign journalists" as China has tightly controlled the media coverage in China, particularly inside Tibet.
"The authorities have stepped up their harassment of the foreign media ever since the Arab Spring echoed around the world in 2011. Harassment of journalists based outside China is still unusual, but there has been a marked increase in harassment of journalists visiting China or based there," it said.
It further stated that "the Communist Party does not hesitate to employ police violence, disguised by the use of plainclothes police, to control foreign media coverage. The beating that a Bloomberg cameraman received in March 2011 was one of the most striking cases."
Every aspect of Tibetan life is under siege from a Chinese regime determined to gradually eradicate a whole religion and culture idtentity.
For example, freedom of expression is targeted, and Tibetans particularly intellectuals have been threatened, denied equality, education, employment, and their citizenship without "declaring loyalty" to mainland China.
In other words, on condition they abandon their national identity, culture, language, and historic heritage that's the equivalent of asking Han Chinese to renounce Buddhist leaders including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet.
Harsh crackdown on intellectuals and cultural figures have continued. Since 2008, hundreds of Tibetan writers, singers, bloggers, intellectuals and cultural figures have been arrested or disappeared, most of them have been sentenced to varying prison terms and many were sentenced to life imprisonment.
China is on the Reporters Without Borders 2013 list of "Enemies of the Internet" and is ranked 173rd out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
Reporters Without Borders (RWB, also Reporters Sans Frontières, RSF) is a France-based international non-profit, non-governmental organization that promotes and defends freedom of information and freedom of the press. The organization has consultant status at the United Nations.